Pope convokes Synod to elect new leader of Church in Iraq

Pope John Paul II has convoked a Synod of the Chaldean Catholic Church -to which belong the majority of Iraqi Catholics- that will elect its new Patriarch.

The Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced today that the Holy Father, "in consideration of Canon 72 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, has convoked for December 2-3, 2003, in the Vatican, the Synod of Bishops of that Church for the election of the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans."

The former patriarch, His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, died July 7, 2003 at the age of 81. The election of the Bidawid's successor will give a badly needed new leader to the Catholic minority in Iraq and Iran, as well as Catholics of the Chaldean rite around the world.

There are some one million Chaldean Catholics around the world, including the United States, but more than half of them live in Iraq. The nominal, mostly traditional see of the Chaldean Patriarch is Babylon, but the real see is Baghdad, where some 350,000 Chaldean Catholics live.

According to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the Patriarch is elected and proposed to the Pope by the Chaldean bishops gathered at the Synod; but if no agreement is reached within 15 days from the opening of the Synod, the Pontiff makes the appointment of the new Patriarch.

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